Sir Alan Dawtry obituary

Other lives: Leading figure in postwar local government in Britain

Sir Alan Dawtry, who has died aged 102, survived combat in the second world war to become a leading figure in local government.

In 1956 he became the town clerk of Westminster city council (the post was later renamed chief executive, and I followed him in that job 30 years later). In 1958, he introduced the first parking meters in Britain. He played a major part in the reorganisation that resulted from the London Government Act 1963 and created the present pattern of 32 London boroughs.

In 1977 Alan negotiated the purchase of a new computer for Westminster council from the US company Sperry Rand. His acumen so impressed the Americans that they appointed him chairman of their UK subsidiary, a job that he held for nine years until 1986.

He was born in Sheffield, son of Melancthon and Kate Dawtry. After leaving King Edward VII school, he took a law degree at Sheffield University (which later conferred an honorary doctorate on him). He started his local government career before the war as a police prosecutor with Sheffield city council.

On the outset of war, Alan joined the army. In 1940 he was stranded in France by Hitler’s Blitzkrieg. Ordered to return to Britain, he made his way across country to Cherbourg. When he arrived, only one ship remained in the harbour. Alan discovered the captain dead drunk, arrested him and sailed across to Britain.

There, a fellow Yorkshireman, Iain Macleod, the future Conservative minister, served under him. Before his political career, Macleod was a professional bridge player. One night Alan refused to play cards with Macleod because he was drunk, and went to bed. Macleod emptied his revolver into Alan’s bedroom and at breakfast next morning demanded an apology from Alan for refusing to play.

Alan fought in the North African campaign. He took part in the landings in Salerno and Anzio, Italy, for which he was made MBE. In charge in Milan in April 1945, he gave the order to cut down the bodies of Mussolini and his mistress Clara Petacci when told that they had been hung out on public display. He ended the war as a lieutenant colonel.

Alan combined charm with Yorkshire grit. He never learned to drive. Having been warned by his mother not to rush into matrimony, he married for the first time at the age of 81, to Sally Chalklin.

She survives him.

Rodney Brooke

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Alex Schweitzer obituary
Other lives: Co-founder of a Reminiscence Centre in London

David Schweitzer

24, Oct, 2021 @10:35 AM

Article image
Pete Rippon obituary
Other lives: Welfare rights officer who was a Sheffield city councillor and former lord mayor of the city

Simon Rippon

24, Jan, 2021 @4:54 PM

Article image
John Jennings obituary
Other lives: Key figure in the regeneration of Durham

Rosie Jennings

24, Sep, 2019 @4:39 PM

Article image
Alan Laurie obituary
Other lives: Inspiring teacher who had helped run secret communication channels during the second worid war

Andrew Laurie

08, Nov, 2019 @5:47 PM

Article image
Paula Sowerby obituary
Other lives: Local government officer in Middlesbrough who as a child was interned in a Japanese prisoner of war camp in Burma

Adrienne Dolphin

04, Nov, 2020 @5:29 PM

Article image
Marianna Clark obituary
Other lives: Doctor, magistrate and Liberal councillor in Bath who had escaped from Germany in 1939

Harriet Hall

06, Dec, 2020 @5:08 PM

Article image
Joseph Compton obituary
Other lives: Environmental health officer who tackled the problems of slum housing in 1950s Manchester

Barbara Compton

01, Aug, 2021 @4:43 PM

Article image
Sabina Miller obituary
Other lives: Educator and Holocaust survivor determined to share the story of her life

Vikki Miller

06, May, 2018 @5:05 PM

Article image
Jean Selwyn obituary
Other lives: Dedicated campaigner for those with learning disabilities

George Selwyn

05, Feb, 2019 @4:34 PM

Article image
Neville Masterman obituary
Other lives: Translator at Bletchley Park during the second world war and later an academic historian

Richard Pepper

06, Mar, 2019 @5:18 PM